Last year's Richmond refinery fire has prompted lawmakers to approve a sharp increase in the number of refinery inspectors and the governor is poised to sign the new law.
From the Chronicle's Jaxon Van Derbeken: "The state would nearly triple the number of oil refinery safety inspectors under a proposal on the governor's desk that backers say would help close regulatory gaps that federal investigators found played a role in the fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery last year."
"One of more than two dozen budget-related bills - all expected to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown by the end of the month - would require Cal/OSHA, the state's main agency overseeing refinery safety, to make refineries in California pay for at least 15 new plant safety inspectors. Four more would be hired with existing funds."
"Currently, the state has just seven inspectors. The added help would bring the total to 26 under the new budget. Still, even a beefed-up staff would likely struggle, critics say, given the huge task of assuring safety at the state's 15 oil refineries and 1,600 other chemical processing plants."
Housing prices, which have been struggling for years as the Great Recession waxed and waned, are coming back -- in spades.
From the LA Daily News' Gregory J. Wilcox: "The median price of a previously owned house in California soared 31.9 percent in May, the largest year-over-year increase in more than three decades as sales of more expensive properties increased and inventory remained tight, a trade group said Monday."
"Last month, the state's median home price increased to $417,350 from $316,460 in May 2012, according to Los Angeles-based California Association of Realtors."
"The association reported that the year-over-year price increase is the biggest since February 1980, when it rose 29.1 percent to $94,4890 from $75,520 a year earlier."
The Public Records Act, which was intended to provide public access to the documents of government, is likely to be weakened dramatically, under legislation awaiting the governor's signature.
From Capitol Weekly's John Howard: "Tucked away in the state budget package on Gov. Brown’s desk is a provision that makes it easier for local governments to avoid complying with Public Records Act requests."
“The bill essentially makes a portion of the Public Records Act optional for local governments – that’s the long and short of it,” said Phillip Ung of California Common Cause, which tracks government transparency."
"The bill, SB 71 by the Senate budget committee, allows cities, counties and other local entities such as school districts and planning commissions, to decide whether to comply with requests. The measure is one of dozens of bills accompanying the main budget bill that contains agreements, changes in law and details related to the primary bill."
The Brown administration's plan to move more northern California water south through the Delta east of San Francisco is taking its share of heat -- in court.
From the Bee's Matt Weiser: "A plan intended, at least in part, to resolve decades of water conflict in the Delta has instead spawned a flood of lawsuits, with at least five separate suits filed against the plan in recent days."
"The Delta Plan, as it is known, was required by 2009 state legislation, which also created the Delta Stewardship Council, the organization that adopted the plan on May 16."
"Environmental groups, local organizations and water users have filed at least five lawsuits in recent days against the plan. They claim, among other things, that the plan fails to satisfy the legal requirements laid out for it and also violates the California Environmental Quality Act."
A peculiar glitch in state funding left four newly incorporated cities -- all in Riverside County -- in the lurch, but legislation to fix that problem after years of budget turmoil is getting its first hearing in the Legslature.
From the Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller: "The measure, Senate Bill 56, essentially mixes past and future in crafting a statewide policy for incorporations and annexations."
"It would put any city incorporated after 2004 – all four of which are in Riverside County – in the same funding pool as cities that have been in place for much longer. Those cities and counties receive a share of property tax revenue designed to make up for what they previously received in vehicle-license fee revenue, a voter-approved change known as the “VLF swap.”
“In a nutshell, it’s treating them similar to how everyone else was treated prior to (Proposition) 1A,” said Jason Gonsalves, a Sacramento lobbyist for the cities of Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar, referring to the 2004 ballot measure."
Andf finally, from our "Science, We Love You" file comes word that Bill Nye the Science Guy is back.
"Mr. Nye had come to talk to them, and a few thousand of their friends, at Iowa State University. If he were a politician, college students would be his base. Instead, he is something more: a figure from their early days in front of the family TV, a beloved teacher and, more and more these days, a warrior for science. They, in turn, are his fans, his students and his army."
"They have gone from watching him explain magnetism and electricity to defending the scientific evidence for climate change, the age of the earth and other issues they have seen polemicized for religious, political and even economic reasons."
"He takes on those who would demand that the public schools teach alternative theories of evolution and the origins of the earth — most famously, in a video clip from the siteBigThink.com that has been viewed some five million times. In it, he flatly tells adult viewers that “if you want to deny evolution and live in your world — in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe — that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it, because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”